This option will be available through Bradley County Schools, if the state gives approval, starting next year.
However, another online option is already available to all K-8 Tennessee students, through Tennessee Virtual Academy. A representative from this school, based in Union County, recently contacted the Banner in response to an article about the possibility of a local option. The school opened this year.
Emily Anderson, support services manager with the school, said the school already has a few students in Bradley County. Anderson said the academy was “open to anyone who lives within the state.”
She said the academy offers more one-on-one time with a teacher than a traditional classroom. She said it also provides “more sound relationships.”
“I’m talking to these parents, most of the time, once a week,” Anderson said.
The school is a combination of four components, including textbooks, online tutorials, online coursework and in-person conferences with the students and parents.
“We actually do work with our whole class or our small groups (though online teaching platforms),” Anderson said.
Students are required to spend 32.5 hours a week on school work. This includes reading the textbook.
“We know if they’ve done (the textbook work) or not because you have to enter the answers in the online school,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the curriculum for math and science through the K-12 online curriculum are extremely hands-on. Students receive resource kits to complete science experiments and math projects through the mail. Tennessee Virtual Academy is accredited like any other public school and is under the Union County Board of Education.
The Academy employs 84 full-time teachers throughout the state and has a fully staffed special education department to serve students.
“We set up testing stations across the state,” Anderson said. “We proctor the test just as we would in a brick-and-mortar school.”
Students who would be in the free and reduced-price lunch program in a traditional school are eligible to receive a free computer and printer. In addition, the Academy has partnered with an Internet service provider to allow these students to receive Internet access at a reduced rate. Since the school only goes up to eighth grade, the school helps these students prepare for the transition into high school. Anderson said students must be willing to travel up to an hour to take state-mandated tests.
“Our students have extracurricular activities available to them in Union County only,” Anderson said.
However, teachers across the state plan field trips for all the students and have also offered opportunities for virtual school students to meet one another.
“Our parents have really been able to get to know each other,” Anderson said.
Current legislation states that Tennessee Virtual Academy must be the only statewide program that uses the K-12 online curriculum. Representatives from the academy are traveling to Nashville today to discuss the benefits of virtual education and rally support from legislators.